I first met Ben Schneider of Lord Huron at Bluesfest, during the band’s first tour of Australia in 2016. Two years on, the band are set to return, with a new album (the brilliant Vide Noir) just released, and plans to play Splendour in the Grass and a couple of sideshows along the way. I caught up with Ben while he was in Kansas City, Missouri, to chat about his upcoming Australian return, the new album and the Public Access show that helped launched it.
“We just played our fifth show (for Vide Noir), just starting to hit our stride, get our fingers around everything.” I mentioned the band’s recent performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which saw the group perform their impressive single “Wait by the River” with a horn section. Sadly, this isn’t reflective of the “I wish we could do that… the horn players were special for that night. There’s only 6 of us on stage, still it’s the most of us we’ve had… We can’t quite afford to bring the full 12 piece orchestra everywhere we go *laughs* but we do our best.”
Indeed, it’s no mean feat even having six members on tour. I ask what it’s like corralling the gang for every show, and every sound check, which Schneider uses as an opportunity to praise his band mates, “I think we’re lucky that we’re all pretty responsible, we’re excited to be doing all this so we take it pretty seriously, everybody is on time. When the show is over we have fun, but up until then, we’re all pretty good at hitting our marks.”
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t always that way, “When we first started to play together, me and three other guys in the band have been playing together since we were 12 or 13, back then it was definitely not… *laughs* let’s say that organisation, responsibility was very low. I think that’s part of the reason why we work so well together now, we’ve gone through the growing pains that most bands went through later in life. Got it out our systems when we were very young.”
And that dedication has led to the group’s status as one of the finest live acts in the market, “We take a lot of pride and put a lot of effort into our live show. It’s really important to us that it’s good and that it stands on its own. We realise we can’t recreate the record note for note when we play it live, so we let it be its own thing. We want it to be just as powerful and impactful as the records.”
So how does the new record fare live? While it was definitely written as an album (and one you should play from start to finish, Schneider said the recording was heavily influenced by their live show, “There’s something visceral about our live show… we wanted to see if we could put it into our record a bit more. Now that we’re starting to play these recorded tracks live, in some ways they were born to be played live. It’s been pretty natural.”
Translating that isn’t always possible with the core members of the group, however, which is why they have to tour as a six piece, “we had to learn out to fill out some of the sounds produced for the record. We have someone to play keys and sing higher harmonies touring with us. But it’s probably been the easiest transition we’ve had from album to live show. We’re starting to add in more and more new songs as we go too; we don’t expect everyone to know the songs just yet, so we’ve picked 6 or 7 so far, and hopefully we’ll swap in some of the others as we go. There’s no song on the record we don’t want to play.”
They also got to have some fun with how they promoted the record, producing a segment that was aired on Public Access Television around the USA at weird times of the night, “so the concept is, you’re watching late night television, and you’re watching huxters sell a product, and it’s not quite clear what they do, but somewho they awaked a cosmic consciousness… you don’t get the details though. So there’s people selling these products, and occasionally they’ll cut to us playing songs, and onto some other segments of very odd things.”
“It was a way for us to expand on the themes of the record and deliver a bit of a different tone to the record. There are some pretty heavy themes on the record, and I think it can feel pretty overwhelming at times. So this is a less serious look at some of those same themes.”
They’ve been doing a lot this album cycle, especially in the realm of TV appearances, and their song “The Night We Met” got a lot of traction after being placed in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. When I asked how he felt about it all, Ben looked at the exposure positively, “I think with those shows, you never know where that push might come from. The right placement. The right performances. Out philosophy is to try a little bit of everything, as long as it doesn’t make us too uncomfortable. The more you do, the more you have a chance to hit something unexpected.”
At the time of the interview, the band were getting ready to take that chance one more time, performing on Late Night with Seth Meyers. The session has since aired, and we’re pretty impressed with their suits to say the least:
Whether or not they’ll be wearing the suits when they come back to Australia in July is unknown. But rest assured the band is excited to come back. Schneider reflected on his last time down here, “It was great, it was our first time going there as a band, or as tourists or anything in 2016 for Bluesfest… it was exciting to be visiting a new place. You never know what your audience is going to be like; it’s amazing to see people who know the words halfway across the world. It’s surreal. Our club shows were great, I understand we’re doing bigger theatre shows this time. The setting and the vibe of Bluesfest was amazing, but it felt so brief. It’s not easy for us to get down there… hopefully this time we’ll get a bit more time to see Australia and Byron… it’s a great honour to play at Splendour.”
And what of the rest of the year? Schneider says, with a whiff of excitement in his voice that they have a lot of touring line up, “we’re doing our best to bring these songs to people. Here in the States and Canada, then Europe later in the year. We’re ready to strap in.” I think it’s safe to say that the group’s fans are too.
Vide Noir is available now. Lord Huron play Splendour in the Grass, as well as sideshows in Sydney (July 15th at Factory Theatre) and Melbourne (July 18th at Melbourne Recital Hall). Splendour is sold out, but for tickets and more details on the sideshows head HERE.